The interaction of African traditional religio-medical practice and western healing methods.
Mcetywa, Sitembile Alfred Mthomtsasa.
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The aim of this thesis is to assess the nature of African Traditional healing system with special reference to Mpondo culture. It is a case study of the Mpondo people of the Eastern Cape. The focus of the study was on the historical facts, the cultural background, the religious experiences and the traditional healing system of this people. Stimulated by the fact that Mpondo people appear to be a marginalized group, undermined and sometimes sidelined, the research seeks to set the record straight. A lack of documented information about this people is the major contributing factor to their lost identity. This stems from the fact that very little has been written about them. Even when such writings are found, they often contain distorted information. In some books, they are mistakenly represented as amaXhosa or a Xhosa sub-group. They are mostly regarded as having no culture, no language or identity. In terms of language, isiXhosa is taught at schools in Mpondoland. This research is an attempt to raise awareness about the reality of the situation of the Mpondo people. Without this knowledge, the Mpondo people can not regain their lost identity, people-hood, humanity and dignity. Through this knowledge, a dehumanised people can fight for their rights. AmaMpondo need to rediscover the spirit of Africanness, so that they know that they belong to Africa. As T Mbeki puts it, Africa needs to be refounded as a space that is centred neither on the market nor on the fortress, but rather on what geographer Paul Wheatley called, its "ceremonial complex" (Mbeki, T., 20 in Chidester). The Mpondo people were primarily dehumanised by the Cape Colonial government. Precolonial Mpondo culture and its post-colonial history was examined. Dehumanising factors among Mpondo came in the form of labels and insults. Their religion was referred to as "pagan" whilst they were at times called "kaffirs", a Malaysian term meaning a non-believer. Now is the time for the revival of the Mpondo as a people of Africa, 'for a country that frowns on its culture by calling us savage and barbarians is a lost country' (Mutwa, p 22, Sunday Tribune, 16 .July 2000). This research sought to investigate the means and ways of restoring the lost dignity of the Mpondo people. In chapter two and three, a survey of Mpondo culture, their world view their religion and their identification of diseases and their treatment was made. Out of this survey it has been indicated that not all was destroyed by the encroachment of the western civilization. "Christianity and western medicine functioned as a secularising ferment in Africa, dethroned the traditional healer, replacing witchcraft, causation with medical history and introducing modem hygiene" (Jansen G.) Mpondo people still practise and believe in their healing system. This shows that although the foundations have been shaken, the base on which to rebuild its culture is still firm. What is now needed is to resist all forms of cultural expression. Sound reconstruction and reconciliation is the end goal of the research. Cultural reconstruction is the basis for sound reconciliation. Because the forces that be, broke the basis of a reconciled and organised society, there is a need to commence with the reconstruction of the people's culture. Cultural reconstruction becomes central particularly in a country which is threatened by social evils, such as a high crime rate, poverty, incurable or death threatening diseases such as HlV/AIDS and unemployment. Without reconciling the people with their culture and African Traditional Religion, any attempt to solve the above mentioned problems may not be easily achieved. Such a construction should not be confused with what Chidester calls '1:he construction of an inventory of Mrican traditional religion which recalls colonial efforts to create systematic boundaries within which African populations were contained. Enclosed within a stable secure and unchanging religious system" (Chidester 2000 : 15). The point at issue here is the reconstruction of a people's culture, based on its natural dignity. Such reconstruction should aim at the international marketing of the people's culture. The thesis is a pointer to the seriousness of the demand for the speedy reconstruction of religion and medical practice. ''The time is past when western medicine was the much praised vehicle for the propagation of the gospel to foreign cultures - missionaries are the heavy artillery of the missionary army" (Walls 1982 : 22). Healing and African Traditional Religion should be a base of such a reconstruction process. First and foremost, African Traditional Religious researchers who are adherents and practice the religion, should take a lead in such a process. This refers to the people on the ground who must be directly be involved. For, ''the non-western voices have not spoken or intervened in this debate" (Jansen G : 09). This may sound racial or ethnic, but the fact of the matter is that most • of the time, the people on the ground have not as yet surfaced, conscientised and organised as a religious group. What is needed is the democratisation of all cultural councils so that more funds are generated for the development of African Traditional Religion standards. It should be taught at schools. More air time on radio and television stations should also be allocated to African Traditional Religion. As in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, studies of the recent democratisation wave have so far tended to limit themselves to the role of the churches and to the lesser extent to Islamic communities. ATR has not received the attention it deserves (Schoffieers : 405). The reconstruction of African Traditional Religion and African Traditional Healing systems are the only positive step towards the proper representation of African culture. This will contribute to the recent efforts to positively represent the traditional religious heritages of South Africa. If it is motivated by Christian acculturation or even Africanist revitalization, the process runs the risk of perpetuating the colonial legacy to the extent that it repeats the inventory approached or abstracts the mentality of 'ubuntu' or African humanity, from political, social and economic relations (Chidester : 2000 : 15). Formations such as the NACATR (National Council of African Traditional Religion) and THO (Traditional Healers Organization) are in line with the promotion of African culture based on religion and healing just as the constitution of South Africa demands. ''The primary objects of the commission for the promotion and protection of the rights of cultural religious and linguistic communities are (a) to promote and respect the rights of cultural religious and linguistic communities, (b) to promote and develop peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance, national unity among religious and linguistic communities on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and freedom of association, and (c) to recommend the establishment or recognition in accordance with national legislation of a cultural or other council or councils for a community or communities in South Africa (The Constitution of the Re.public of South Africa 1996 Chapter 9: 101).